Dealing with Job Abandonment

Jacky Syberg, HR Consultant

In today’s ever-changing environment, job abandonment can be a pressing issue for employers in any industry. Defined as the voluntary and unexplained resignation of an employee, job abandonment can disrupt operations, put a strain on teams, and leave managers puzzled regarding next steps. This article will delve into some steps to take to navigate this challenge.


Having a successful employee-manager relationship is the first step to reducing the possibility of job abandonment. Continual communication and an open-door policy, improves the chances that an employee will communicate directly, should they wish to resign, versus avoiding the conversation and abandoning their position.

Creating a culture of communication aids in reducing multiple issues in the workplace, including the reduced chance of job abandonment. This can be achieved through regular feedback sessions, transparent decision-making processes, and promoting an inclusive atmosphere where diverse perspectives are respected. Open communication with employees builds trust and can lead to higher job satisfaction and reduce turnover.

First steps

If an employee fails to attend their scheduled shift, and does not make contact, first, assess the situation based on your knowledge of the employee. Ask yourself, is this uncharacteristic of this person? Has this happened before? Have they provided information in the past that leads me to believe they are unsafe?

For example, if the employee has recently disclosed a struggle with mental health, or any other “red flag” information, your next steps might be focused more on offering support and ensuring their safety. If the employee has historically been a poor communicator, you may focus more on coaching and feedback.


Attempt your typical method of contact, be that a phone call, email (to a personal account), or text message.

Consider reaching out to their emergency contact. Has their emergency contact heard from them? You may disclose that you are their manager, and you are trying to contact them. Request that if they hear from the employee, they ask the employee to contact you. Consider confidentiality of the employee when speaking to their emergency contact.

Consider a welfare check. If you have reason to suspect the employee could be in danger, contact local authorities through a non-emergency line and ask for a welfare check on an employee who has failed to show for work.

It is not recommended to physically go to their residence yourself. For safety reasons, it’s best to leave this step to the professionals. Avoid involving other employees, even if a close friend, or relative to the employee. You want to respect and consider confidentiality of the employee.

Document any action you take.

Letter to employee

Should the employee continue to miss scheduled shifts, and fail to respond to attempts at contact, consider sending a formal registered letter, or email (with read receipt) to the employee. This step best demonstrates the companies attempt at contact should the company be called into question.

Generally, this formal attempt at contact outlines the shifts (dates and/or times) that have been abandoned, your attempts (including dates and methods) at contact, and sets a request for contact with a deadline. An appropriate deadline may depend on how often the employee is scheduled to work, but generally can be between three to seven business days. The letter may outline that if they fail to make proper contact within that set timeframe, their position will be processed as “job abandonment” and treated as a voluntary resignation.

Formal communication to the employee at this point typically involves your human resources representative and should follow any policies currently in place. Your human resources representative can assist to ensure that you are not missing any important or confidential information regarding the employee or their employment status.

After making contact

Should you eventually contact the employee, consider the reason behind the uncommunicated absences, history of the employee, and policies and procedures based on the situation.

Generally, an absence without notification can either be within the employees’ control, or outside of their control. If a situation did arise where the employee was a ‘no call no show’, but this was due to a medical emergency, or a miscommunication regarding the posted schedule, it could have been a justifiable situation, which may not warrant any discipline.

However, if the situation was “within their control” such as a pointed decision to miss work for a personal event, or failure to properly check their schedule, you should address through normal channels of progressive discipline, coaching, or setting future expectations.

Document all conversations, and add information to the employees personnel file, ensuring their signature and understanding on what is being placed in their file.


After taking appropriate steps, if the employee still has not made contact, follow up with human resources and move forward with processing the resignation of the employee.

Remember, you are not involuntarily terminating the employee. Their silence is being interpreted as a voluntary resignation.


Organizations should consider developing a company policy on job abandonment. Having a process in place that is understood by all parties helps to outline the appropriate process for managers and sets expectations for employees. Organizations can also adopt a culture of clear communication. Consistently prioritizing strong employee-manager relationships will also help reduce overall job abandonment.

For assistance with policy development or management of an employee, consult with People First HR.